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European Kingdoms

Germanic Tribes


MapCharudes (Harudes?) (Germanic)

The Germanic tribes seem to have originated in a homeland in southern Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway, with the Jutland area of northern Denmark, along with a very narrow strip of Baltic coastline). They had been settled here for over two thousand years following the Indo-European migrations. The Germanic ethnic group began as a division of the western edge of late proto-Indo-European dialects around 3300 BC, splitting away from a general westwards migration to head towards the southern coastline of the Baltic Sea. By the time the Germanic tribes were becoming key players in the politics of Western Europe in the last two centuries BC, the previously dominant Celts were on the verge of being conquered and dominated by Rome. They had already been pushed out of northern and Central Europe by a mass of Germanic tribes which were steadily carving out a new homeland.

This tribe was located on the western coast of what is now central Denmark, in the north-west of the Syddanmark region and the western side of the Midtjylland region. In the first century BC they were neighboured to the north by the Cimbri and Teutones, to the east by the Aviones and Eudoses, to the south-east by the Varini (who migrated eastwards within a century), and to the south by the Angles.

There is little evidence and only very brief mentions in history to help trace the tribe's migratory progress. The most likely sequence of events is that they first emerged as a recognisable tribe in western Norway, and migrated southwards into central Denmark by the first century BC. There they apparently remained for at least a century, and thereafter were either absorbed by the Eudoses at some point between the second and fourth centuries, or migrated away to be lost in the general confusion of the third and fourth century creation of several large tribal confederations.

The tribe's classical Latin name was Charudes, or sometimes Charydes, but the Greek geographer, Ptolemy rendered it as Charoudes, and it could possibly be interpreted as Harudes. This version of the name has led to suggestions that the tribe originated from or migrated to Hardanger in western Norway. There is no written evidence to confirm that the Charudes and Harudes were one and the same, but it seems likely. Conventional wisdom suggests that the origin of the name means 'pine forest' dwellers, but it is not entirely convincing. While searching for the origins of their name in proto-Germanic produces nothing, their geographical origin may be easier to pin down due to what is not in their name rather than what is. 'Charudes' contains no '-on' or '-en' suffix. This is an indication that they were not subjected to heavy Celtic influences on their naming. And therefore a Norwegian origin is supported, as that is one area with no recorded Celtic contact. Proto-Germanic 'kh' evolved into 'ch' and/or 'h' over time, so the 'Hard-' names found in the districts in Norway (Hördaland and the Hardanger fjord) and Denmark (Hardsyssel or Harsyssel in western central Jutland) that have been linked to the tribe are reasonable. These would have been pronounced with a 'ch' and, before that, 'kh', and perhaps even 'k', giving a possible original name for the tribe of Karut or Kharut.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from Geography, Ptolemy, from the Complete Works of Tacitus, Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb, & Lisa Cerrato, from Germania, Tacitus, from Roman Soldier versus Germanic Warrior: 1st Century AD, Lindsay Powell, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, and from External Links: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars, and The Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed), and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition).)

60? BC

Ariovistus is a leader of the Suevi and other allied Germanic peoples in the middle of the first century BC. As recorded by Julius Caesar, and perhaps also by Cicero (who writes in 60 BC of a defeat for the Aeduii), Ariovistus and his followers, which includes a detachment of 24,000 Harudes, take part in a war in Gaul, assisting the Gallic Arverni and Sequani to defeat their rivals, the Aeduii. The Battle of Magetobriga results in a victory for the allies, thanks to the Suevi troops, and the Aeduii become vassals of the Sequani.

Ariovistus seizes one-third of the Aeduii territory in the Alsace region, settling about 120,000 Germans there. However, with the Sequani now at his back, between him and Germania, he decides to clear them out of their Doubs valley homeland. More German settlers are introduced there, and a further third of Gaulish territory is demanded for his allies, the Harudes. They go on to harass the Treveri to such an extent that that they send an ambassador to Julius Caesar.

Lemvig in Denmark
The Lemvig region of central Denmark was within the territory of the Charudes in the first century BC, offering them access to the North Sea, although it is not known if they were an especially dedicated sea-going tribe

58 BC

The Aeduii appeal to Rome for relief from Ariovistus' alleged cruelty towards them. Julius Caesar, in his role first as consul and then as governor of Gaul (from 58 BC), appears to pursue a diplomatic course that will deliberately end in warfare. Caesar is also informed that a further hundred units of Suevi are about to cross the Rhine to reinforce Ariovistus.

The showdown happens at the Battle of Vosges following an unsuccessful face-to-face parley between the two leaders. The Suevi host lines up in units of tribal groups starting with the Harudes, Marcomanni, Triboci, Vangiones, Nemetes, Sedusii and the core of the Suebi themselves. Superior Roman tactics breaks that line and the Suevi host makes a run for the Rhine. Ariovistus makes it across, but many of his allies now turn on him and the Suebi. Subsequently, the Suevi avoid the Rhine for generations, concentrating on building a fresh confederation in central Germania. Presumably, the remnants of the Harudes also make their way home to the Midtjylland region of Denmark.

AD 5

The Cimbri still exist as a recognisable people and probably still occupy land within their original territory in the Cimbric peninsula. Pliny reports that they and the Charudes send ambassadors to Rome. It is in the subsequent century that the Jutes begin to arrive in the region, and it is probably they who absorb the remnants of the Cimbri.

AD 14

The death of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus is the occasion for the Res Gestae Divi Augusti ('The Deeds of the Divine Augustus') funerary inscription to be read. The document is a form of obituary, recounting the emperor's deeds to his mourning subjects. It also mentions the Charudes of Jutland who are said to have petitioned Rome for its friendship. This suggests that elements of the Harudes who accompanied Ariovistus have remained close to the Rhine and the Roman border area rather than returning to their more distant homeland in Jutland.


By the mid-fifth century, the Charudes are nowhere to be found in Jutland. Instead, the Eudoses (Jutes) occupy the Jutland peninsula. They are neighboured to the south by the Angles, who have migrated from the south-east, from along the southern Baltic coast, to dominate central Denmark. The possibility exists that the Charudes have been absorbed by the Eudoses. The traditional district of Hardsyssel or Harsyssel in western central Jutland echoes the tribe's existence.

There are other suggestions for the fate of the Charudes. One is that they have migrated into Norway, leaving their homeland abandoned for the Angles to occupy. They could be the Norwegian Hǫrðar people who settle in Hördaland and give their name to the Hardanger fjord. The Hǫrðar are identical to the Arochi who inhabit the Scandza are who are mentioned in the sixth century Getica of Jordanes. He claims that he is writing about the situation before the time of Ptolemy, meaning the early second century or first century AD. The later Old English Hæredas or Heardingas are also associated with the Hǫrðar, or Hords, the inhabitants of the Hardanger fjord.

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